By UNEP News Centre
A major report released today on Rwanda's post-conflict sustainable development urges the country to build on its rehabilitation efforts and seed more opportunities for a transition towards a green economy.
The report, Rwanda: From Post-Conflict to Environmentally Sustainable Development, was unveiled in Kigali by the Minister of Natural Resources, Hon. Mr Stanislas Kamanzi, at the start of a regional meeting with East African senior policy makers exploring how to leverage support for a shift towards an environmentally sustainable, climate resilient, low-carbon, resource-efficient future.
Following a consultative process with the Government of Rwanda, the 380-page UNEP report provides a critical analysis of the most pressing environmental issues facing the country and proposes an integrated package of almost 90 projects and interventions, totaling US$147 million, that would help the country accelerate its sustainable development agenda.
Key findings include that Rwanda has lost 60 percent of its natural forest area since independence, driven mainly by the needs of a fast-growing population for land, timber and firewood. However, recent reforestation efforts have helped raise forest cover to around 20 percent of the country's surface area.
In particular, the report recommends the Rwandan government reinforces its policies and investments in areas such as large-scale ecosystem rehabilitation, renewable energies, sustainable agriculture and agroforestry, environmental management capacity building and regional environmental cooperation, including participation in natural resource trade initiatives.
With over 10 million people in an area of 26,000 square kilometers, Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries striving to unlock a downward-cycle of natural resource over-exploitation. However, it has made remarkable progress following the aftermath of the 1994 genocide and is now considered an inspiration for African development.
UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Mr Achim Steiner, said the shared lessons from implementing the report's recommendations would help reverse declining environmental trends and showcase a real-life pathway to a green economy.
"Rwanda provides an exceptional case of a country's willpower to overcome a traumatic conflict legacy, restore degraded ecosystems and lift people out of poverty and there is growing interest from development partners and other countries in Rwanda's pioneering model," said Mr Steiner.
"The ongoing metamorphosis of Rwanda's economy offers a unique opportunity to catalyse green investments, to enhance sustainability, create green jobs and promote environmentally efficient technologies," he added.
Speaking at the launch event, Minister Kamanzi welcomed the scientific assessment which he said underlines the intrinsic relationship between ecosystem services and the achievement of national development goals as outlined in Rwanda's Vision 2020.
"We see the environment as the heart of our economy and need to ensure that it can sustain the economic growth achieved in recent years," Mr Kamanzi said.
"The damage to the Congo-Nile and Byumba highland ecosystems is highlighted not only as a threat to biodiversity but to livelihoods and Rwanda's economic future because it must sustain hydropower, agriculture and drinking water supplies, as well as providing climate regulation and carbon sequestration services.
"For Rwanda and other countries in the region, the time has come to capitalize on green economy thinking and translate our policy targets into on-the-ground action to create jobs, combat poverty and accelerate sustainable development across the region," the Minister said.
More than 40 legal and technical experts from Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as Rwanda, are attending the workshop which is aiming to enhance capacity in East African countries to use the green economy as a driver for sustainable development and poverty reduction, and to identify actions, opportunities and challenges for integrating green economy in policies and legislations at national and regional levels.
One of the enabling frameworks needed for the green economy is having effective laws and related governance structures to support it. Strengthening the regulatory and governance frameworks will complement measures already being taken by governments and the private sector.
To further support Rwanda in its efforts to accelerate a sustainable growth path, UNEP used the workshop to release another new report, Mainstreaming Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production in Policies and Strategies of Rwanda.
This report was prepared by UNEP in collaboration with Rwanda's Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA).
The report reviews existing policy and strategy frameworks of resource efficient and cleaner production (RECP) and identifies areas for mainstreaming RECP into the country's national policies and strategies.
In particular, the report identifies strategic entry points for mainstreaming in four main areas: institutional and policy integration, economic and fiscal incentives, capacity building and support to small and medium-sized enterprises and information and public education.
The two-day workshop, organized by UNEP and REMA, is expected to take these findings on board as they examine how regulatory instruments can contribute to reducing poverty and promoting the transition to a green economy in East Africa.
Earlier this year at the UN Forest Forum, Rwanda launched a landmark Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative aimed to reverse by 2035 the degradation of the entire country's soil, water, land and forest resources. Next week, an intensification of Rwanda's tree planting programme is due to begin with the target of planting 68 million trees over the next 12 months to reach the government's goal of raising forest cover to at least 30 percent of its land area by 2020.
As part of the One UN presence, UNEP stands ready to assist the Government of Rwanda in mobilizing resources to implement the post-conflict assessment's recommendations and with broader ongoing environmental initiatives.